Bishops vs Catholic Healthcare West, and Why We All Should Worry

6:27 am in Religion by Peterr

A year ago, the medical staff of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix was faced with a painful situation. A pregnant mother of four was in serious medical trouble in the 11th week of her pregnancy. The doctors’ opinion was that she was at extreme risk of death, and the odds of her own survival were diminishing with each day she remained pregnant. After consultation with the hospital’s medical ethics board, the patient, and her family, the doctors terminated the pregnancy in order to save the woman’s life.

Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix was not pleased when he heard about it. Not at all. His reaction was to deliver an ultimatum with three specific conditions:

    • The hospital must “acknowledge in writing” that the procedure was an abortion.
    • The hospital must agree to a diocesan certification process to guarantee compliance with Catholic doctrine.
    • The hospital must provide its medical personnel with ongoing training in the Catholic directives governing health care, “as overseen by either the National Catholic Bioethics Center or the Medical Ethics Board of the diocese of Phoenix.”

      Refusal to agree to these conditions, said Olmsted, would cost St. Joseph’s the ability to call itself a “catholic” hospital, and he would revoke the chapel’s permission to have masses said there. In addition to these direct consequences, removing the ability of the hospital to call itself catholic would also have financial repercussions that could cost them money from donors, foundations, and of course from the diocese itself.

      The bishop’s tone with the hospital and its administrators was unmistakable. I am the ultimate authority in this diocese, he tells them in his letter last month [pdf], and not you. Olmsted’s concern throughout the letter to Catholic Healthcare West (the owner of St. Joseph’s) is first and foremost about protecting and projecting his own authority and power: Read the rest of this entry →